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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 8-8.5/10

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014)

Age is only a number, you young whippersnappers!

Elaine Stritch was a woman of many talents. She could sing, dance, be funny, make people laugh, give a hell of a show, etc. But her best talent of all, was just being herself. Even if she was a brass, sometimes mean, older lady that usually gave those around her a hell of a hard time, she always gave it her all, no matter what it was she was working on. It could have either been as Jack’s mom on 30 Rock. Or her numerous appearances on Broadway. Or even the recordings she did for songs she sang in the past. No matter what she was doing, Elaine Stritch gave it her all and most of the time, came out on top, even if she had to knock a couple of people down a notch or two, just to prove that she’s the hardest, longest working-lady around.

All up until the day she died in her sleep, which, tragically, happened on the wee hours of July 17, 2014.

It’s hard to review a movie, let alone, a documentary, when the subject called into question has just recently passed away. Something else that makes the task a bit harder is knowing that the documentary is highlighting a certain part in said subject’s life that is not only some of their last months/years alive, but also that at the end, the movie lets it be known to us that the subject plans on retiring in 2015. Or in 2016. Or in 2017. And so on and so forth.

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

That little note at the end shows us all exactly the kind of hard-worker Elaine Stritch truly was, even up until her final days alive, but in order to totally understand that fact about her, you’d have to see this. Because, not only does director Chiemi Karasawa really get us up close and personal with the woman that was Elaine Stritch in front of the camera and her many friends/family, but who she was when the lights were turned on, the curtain dropped, and the show was over, which was a very vulnerable, self-conscious soul that wanted to always make those around her happy and feel pleased with what it is that she’s done for them. Which, when initially watching this flick, you’ll be surprised to see because Elain Stritch was no lovely walk-in-the-park to be around.

That’s not to say she was a terrible person, she was just an unpredictable one that usually controlled whatever conversation she was having, with whomever that person may have been. Such personable celebrities like Tracy Morgan, the late great James Gandolfini (who this film is, oddly enough, dedicated to), Tina Fey and even Alec Baldwin, all come to tell their story of how one Elaine Stritch put them in their place, just upon meeting her for the first time. They also go on to say that she was never afraid to speak her mind and call it like it she saw it, which, in the business that is the movie-making business, is usually more of a fault, than a positive. However, that was the beauty with Stritch, both off and on the screen: She was able to get past it all by just giving the crowd and everyone else exactly what they wanted from her.

She’s like any other performer out there in the world, except she’s not; she’s her own kind of beast that goes by her own rules/ways of doing things, and if you don’t like it, then piss off and find somebody else that can do it nearly as good as her. The problem was, nobody could and that’s why Stritch is truly a talent to be missed.

Now, I do realize that this whole “review”, has turned into being more of a “tribute” to the late, great actress that was Elaine Stritch, but it’s just what can happen when you see a movie about somebody at the end of their road (though not really), and how they continue to live on a day-to-day basis, doing what it is that they want, how they want it, where they want it, and however they want it. And Elaine Stritch do exactly this, is interesting; she’s the type of old lady (although she prefers to use the term “older) that can be cranky and get on people’s case about something meaningful to her, but she isn’t the kind of old lady that’s lost her edge, nor her smarts about the business or how to approach she things. She still sang, performed and sure as hell acted until she called it “quits”, and even then, she couldn’t fully sit down and stay down. She had to get back up, find some work to do and shows the world she’s still got it and never going to throw in the towel.

Watch out before you call her "grand-mom".

Not the one you want to call “grand-ma”.

Of course though, as is the case with life, it all caught up with her, which gets highlighted in this movie very much. Stritch’s many problems with diabetes and alcoholism is explored many of times, showing us that Stritch had many demons deep down inside of her, most of which, she wasn’t willing to let be shared in this movie, until push eventually came to shove. However, the movie doesn’t use this as a way to show us its subject, and make her seem more sympathetic; she doesn’t ask for our sadness, nor do we really want to give it to her. We want her to feel better about life in any way that she can, and because Stritch wants that just as much as we do, it’s pleasing to watch her whenever she’s performing in front of a crowd, regardless of the size of it, or whether or not said performance is to be her last.

Either way, for Elaine Stritch, swan song, or no swan song, the gal continued to go on and didn’t want to sit still. That’s not only a testament to the kind of performer she truly was, but to the old era of Broadway stars that did everything and lived like stars. They were all so very talented, but Stritch in particular was the kind of star that made you wonder: Does age really matter? Because, just as long as you’re able to keep some of your sanity, as well as still being able to be inspired by the thrill of working and performing, then no, it doesn’t. Just live like Elaine Stritch:

Continue to perform and do things, the way you want to do things. Because as long as you give it your all, then everybody’s happy. Most especially yourself.

Consensus: While it certainly takes on a new life, post-death, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is the kind of documentary that not only praises its subject for all the work she’s done throughout her storied-career, but also has us see what it was that really made her the way she was, both in front of, as well as behind, the camera/stage.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You go, Elaine!

You go, Elaine!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Life Itself (2014)

Yup. Two Thumbs Up.

For some people, Roger Ebert was just a guy who watched an awful lot of movies, and said whether or not he liked them by going “thumbs up”, or “thumbs down”. But to others, he was more than just a film critic; he was a man who genuinely loved what it was that he did and found anyway he could to make it better. Whether it was by posting a positive review on a movie that barely anyone had ever heard about, or by just speaking his mind and not backing down from when others went against him, Roger Ebert had opinions and thoughts, and he wasn’t going to back off from speaking his mind and letting the world know about what he thought. Of course though, as with most humans, Roger ran into some problems with his excessive drinking, but soon found happiness in the form of one woman named Chaz, who he falls in love with and gets married too. Right from there on, Roger realizes that there’s more to life than just movies; sometimes, you have to care for others and continue on the legacy of good-tidings. Of course though, he never forgot about the movies. Not even until the day he tragically passed away at the age of 70.

I feel like if you’ve lived long enough, or have at least paid enough attention to movies as a whole, you know a thing or two about Roger Ebert and the type of influence he has on most people who watch movies. And I’m not just talking about the critiques who just about everybody despises, I’m talking about a natural, everyday film-goer. For awhile too, Roger was the premier film critic that everybody paid attention, and actually listened to, regardless of if they fully agreed with his end rating of a movie or not.

And seeing as how I was a big fan of Roger Ebert, his reviews, At the Movies (even throughout its numerous incarnations that didn’t involve Roger himself), and film criticism as a whole, I knew that this was really going to pull at my heart. After all, without Roger Ebert, there probably would have never been a DTMMR to begin with, and thus, there wouldn’t have been an excuse behind all my countless hours of sitting in front of keyboards and screens.

What the hell is that "thing" he's holding in his hand?!?!

What the hell is that “thing” he’s holding in his hand?!?!

But like I said before about this movie, it’s meant to be made for anybody who was ever touched by Roger and what it was that he did and that’s why most of this flick works. Director Steve James knows that most of us connect Roger to At the Movies, with George Siskel of course, which is primarily why he focuses so much time on that aspect of his life. We see how him and Siskel sometimes got along and sometimes didn’t, both on and off the screen. They didn’t hate each other, yet they didn’t love each other either; they were just two guys who loved the absolute hell out of movies, and were never willing to settle for the other’s opinion.

In all honesty, it’s probably the most interesting part of this documentary; in fact, dare I say it, we could have probably had a whole documentary about their beginnings together and how they, with time, eventually got to like one another and be somewhat considered “pals”. There’s true, honest and real human drama in the stories we are told by those closest to the both of them and whenever James puts his focus on them and lets that story play-out, it’s easily what makes this documentary so interesting to watch and listen to. Even if it is apparent that it’s more about their relationship, and less about Roger and his life, it still glues you in to what you hear next, and by whom.

With that said though, it isn’t like every territory James explores that has to do with Roger and his own personal life isn’t interesting at all, it just sort of pales in comparison. However, there’s still plenty of interesting detours James takes with this documentary and with Ebert’s life that makes things more compelling. For instance, James highlights the fact that Ebert was something of a hero to those that made the movies he reviewed. He was more than just a dude who sat in front of a screen, watched something, and then dissected it moments later; he’s like as I’d like to imagine every other film critic, professional or nonprofessional – a man who truly loves his craft and the business in which he works around. And because of that, he would constantly champion certain movies by certain directors, and give those movies more exposure than they could have ever expected before in their lives.

Because, if there was anybody a common, everyday citizen was going to listen to when it came to “what’s good?”, and “what’s not?”, it sure as hell was Roger Ebert. And sure as hell not some 20-something blogger….

But what really hits us hard is when we see these certain stories told to us by the likes of Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, and even Errol Morris, who show that if it wasn’t for Roger, they would practically have no film career to begin with; Bahrani himself even goes so far as to befriend Ebert and his whole family! This all truly shows you not only the importance of film criticism in general, but what it really does matter for when somebody sees your movie and talks about it. It doesn’t matter if it totally blows, or is the next best thing since Citizen Kane - it’s a film that, for the most part, is worth seeing. It could touch somebody’s life, while not do anything for another. You never know, and that’s why the art of film deserves to exist in a world such as this.

The man truly is a legend. Not once batting an eye while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him right in the face.

Not once batting an eye away from his work while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him in the face. The man truly was a legend.

Like I was saying though, James doesn’t always hit the mark when he’s exploring Ebert’s life and totally forgets to go even deeper into certain parts that I would have liked a little bit more clarification on (most definitely his later-years when he was diagnosed and before he passed away), but it’s the disease itself that James really goes on and on about, in a respectable, but bold manner. He doesn’t shy away from showing us the harsh living conditions Roger, Chaz, and the rest of his family has to live through in order to keep him alive, and he sure as hell doesn’t shy away from showing us just how hard it is for all of them to have to go on with it, day after day, but it’s the reality of the situation as presented to us. I’m sure there were many people out there who had no freakin’ clue at all about how truly painful or serious this illness was and for that, I’d definitely like to commend James. Not only does he highlight those last few months/years for Roger that may have not been the best of his life, but it shows us that he hardly ever gave up on doing what he loved most: Watching and reviewing movies.

For, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be hardly near as many film critics out there as we have today. And, for better, as well as for worse, we have that to thank him for.

Or better yet, give him a solid thumbs up.

Thank you, Roger.

Consensus: While not a perfect documentary, Life Itself still gives us a glimpse into the life of Roger Ebert who made a career out of speaking his mind, loving what it was that he did and always, I repeat, always making sure that the business in which he worked in continued to get better and better, even after he was long gone. And I think it’s safe to say that, on his part, mission complete.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Write this down men: Twenty-something blondes who play the trumpet are bad news.

Recent college-grad Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is working as an intern at a production company and realizes that she needs to make a big change in her life if she wants to be happy at all. Therefore, she decides to break-up with her boyfriend Mike (Mark Duplass) and set her sights possibly on other men; even if those other men just so happen to be her co-workers, Matt (Kent Osborne) and Paul (Andrew Bujalski). Hannah begins one with the later, while the former sort of just sits around, does his work like he’s supposed to be doing and basically be all upset that he’s being left out of the mix. But Hannah’s the type of girl who can’t seem to stick to one thing, regardless of if her life depends on it or not, so you can never tell exactly what she’s going to do next, or with whom either.

It’s a short premise, but at an-hour-and-23-minutes, it’s a short movie, and there’s something inherently charming about all of that. See, writer/director Joe Swanberg likes these small, intimate and rather raw stories about people just living their lives, on a day-to-day basis without all of the schmaltzy, over-dramatic bullshit that we usually see in much-larger, more mainstream movies. Does he do this to save some money and actually be able to make his movies? Sure, you could definitely make that argument. However, there’s something nice and refreshing about a writer/director who likes to create real stories, about real people, doing, well, real things.

Even if one of those “real things” does consist of constantly being shacked-up with whomever is around you.

Oh, Gret.

Oh, Gret.

And yes, that is exactly what Hannah does here. To be honest, the hardest aspect to like about this movie is Hannah herself; she’s self-involved, yet, not overbearingly so. She clearly has a nice conscience and wants to do the right thing for herself and those around her, but when it comes right down to it most of the time, she takes matters into her own hands and doesn’t always fully think things through. Does that make her flawed? Of course it does! But does it also make her somewhat human? Oh, totally!

So with that said, it may be hard to at least accept Hannah as a person you want to watch a movie about, but this isn’t necessarily a movie that’s trying to test your patience. It’s trying to give you a story of a young, sometimes brash and difficult lady that doesn’t know what she wants with life, except just to be happy and feel like she’s working for, or towards, something. Hannah herself doesn’t want to be left behind by the wind and forgotten about – she wants to be remembered, loved, and most of all, happy. Though her ways of making sure that happens are a bit questionable, it’s still interesting to watch because there’s a feeling that this is a real woman we’re watching on screen, and not just figment of a dude’s imagination.

And if she was, she’d be a pretty depressing one, considering that there’s a lot of heartbreak and sadness here, all as a result of her own doing, mind you.

Also, another reason why Hannah is so enthralling to watch is because Greta Gerwig’s an on-screen presence worth paying attention to every second her lovely face is on screen. Which, in the case of this movie, is the whole, damn time. So, if you’re annoyed of Greta Gerwig’s bubbly, warm mug, then this is definitely not something you should bother with. Especially since Swanberg seems to really love focusing in on that mug and watching as each and every emotion she feels, is spelled out on her face. In a way, it can sometimes be annoying by how much zooming-in Swanberg does on not just Gerwig, but on everything else, but I felt like it was something you have to sort of expect with a mumblecore movie, and it’s easy to accept after awhile. Is it uncomfortable to sit around and watch sometimes? Yes, but it’s something that’s easy to get used to once the story actually gets going.

Gerwig does something quite exceptional here in how she’s able to make us see Hannah as a female, rather than a contrivance that Swanberg would have created. She’s more than just a gal who likes to kiss boys and try them out as if they were a new pair of shoes; she’s trying to work towards something. Of course Gerwig’s a lovely presence, but it’s in these spare, raw moments of emotional truth where you really get a sense for who she is, and you sort of feel sympathy for her. Even if she is making a lot of problems for herself, rather than solving them, but that’s who she is. She’s a complicated, confused gal and Gerwig’s great at displaying both sides of Hannah’s personality.

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

That’s not to say that the whole movie just ends up being Gerwig’s show from beginning to end – in fact, quite the opposite. Because this is a story about Hannah and the sorts of men she interacts with in this short time-span in her life, we get to view a different side to her, all depending on the guy she’s gunning for at the point in time. Though he’s displayed quite apparently on the poster, Mark Duplass isn’t in this film as much as you’d like to think and it’s a bit of a shame. The dude’s always a charming presence in anything he shows up in and here, he’s no different. But because the story needs him to be kaput early on, it’s only necessary that we get a small dosage of his charm, and get a chance to see it head-to-head with these two other dudes, Matt and Paul.

Both are pretty charming dudes, but in a nerdy kind of way. But they’re not totally nerdy in that they can’t ever hold a conversation with any normal human being; they’re just sort of the type of guys who have their own set of interests, in their own little circles. Bujalski and Osborne both display enough likability and realism to make it easy to see why they’d be both perfect, and not-so perfect for Hannah’s wants, needs and desires, and it makes you wonder who she’s going to end up with in the end.

Which, like it is in life, is incredibly unpredictable.

Consensus: The constraints in budget and scope may make Hannah Takes the Stairs feel a bit claustrophobic, but for those who can get past that, will realize it’s a heartfelt, emotional and sometimes funny drama about a gal just being herself, while trying to figure out who it is she wants as a mate in her life.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Me. Everyday of my life.

Me. Everyday of my life.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

If any movie theater can allow for this to happen, then perverts are going to be knocking at the door.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives one of the saddest lives you will ever witness a lady of her age living, and it only seems to get worse. Not only is she clinging on to a job that seems like she’s going to be fired from any second now, but her husband (Danny Aiello) is a philandering gambler that thinks every discussion must be solved by either a slap or a hit. Cecilia puts up with this all because, quite frankly, like everybody else during the Great Depression, she had nowhere else to go and was lucky enough to even have a house, a job and a husband. However, life isn’t all that bad for Cecilia once she steps into her local movie theater at least once, or twice, or maybe even three times a day, escaping the harsh reality of the world outside, and just setting her eyes on the fantastical world that these movies create, placing her into something entirely new and imaginative, even if it is only for an hour or so. One movie that Cecilia seems to really be addicted to is this new feature called The Purple Rose of Cairo, so much so that she sees it five times in-a-row. She’s so addicted that even one of the characters, Tom (Jeff Daniels), notices this, walks off the screen, takes her by the hand, exclaims his love for her and whist her away on a journey where they will most likely fall in love and be together, forever. Problem here being that not only is Tom not a real person, but the movie he left is now stopped, without any signs of moving forward, leaving all of the other characters in the movie without a single sense of direction. They just wait, wait and wait some more until Tom comes back to the dull, monotonous life of a movie-screen character, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Have no clue why I went so balls to the walls with that synopsis, but once I started typing, I just couldn’t stop. Most of you will understand, and for that, I say thank you, For the ones who don’t understand, then whatever. On with the review!

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

This little gem is from the creative mind of Woody Allen who, if you don’t know by now, usually hits big, or misses terribly. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former, then again, that will most likely continue to be more common since he is getting up there in terms of age, and he still continues to make at least one movie a year, if not some other ones on the side. But back in the 80’s, Woody reigned as supreme as he could get with acclaimed hit, after acclaimed hit, and it only got better and better when the 90’s rained in. Here, with this movie, the man not only shows his love for the past, but for the present, and possibly, future of film, while also letting us know that it’s all bullshit in the end.

See, while you don’t expect Woody to throw in a frown here, despite all of the happiness, joy and romanticism on full-display, he somehow does and is able to make it work, feeling as if you are in fact watching a Woody Allen movie. There’s plenty of times where you can tell that his love for film transcends any generation, but more so here because he was born in the 30’s (when this story takes place), and it makes you feel even closer to the story, just as much as he probably does making it. Plenty of the signature Woody wit and charm is to be found in the writing, but the cute feelings of falling in love with someone completely out of the blue is what really resonated with me so well, and this is, might I remind you, coming from the same guy who made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Husbands and Wives and plenty other “love and life suck” movies.

And even though there is a romance at the centerpiece of this movie, you still get the idea that Woody’s using it as a tool to get across his feelings about the art of cinema itself; an art form that will be around forever because it has real human-beings escape the world they live in, but yet, is also filled with so many unrealistic hopes and dreams, that it can sometimes be detrimental to those said human-beings’ minds as they will most likely buy into these visions if they begin to take these lessons of these films to heart. While that does sound terribly bleak and unpleasant, it is, once again, a Woody Allen movie, so you have to sort of expect it nonetheless. But even though it seems like Woody may be against, in some small regards, the form of art that is film, in other larger regards, he embraces it wholeheartedly and fully, letting us know that he’s as happy as banshee to be a filmmaker in a day and age like today; and even more happier and thankful for the ones who have came before him, most likely throwing inspiration his way.

Yet, don’t be fooled by how downbeat I may be selling this flick as, because while it does end on a rather grim note (one that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest bit), there is still a happy idea about movies and what they do to a person, for better and for worse. However, Woody knows that movies are supposed to make people happy, take them into a world, and all while informing them a bit as well, which is exactly what he does here, to ever so great effect, all before ending on a rather sad note. But like I said, it’s expected knowing Woody, the die hard cynic.

If that's Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

If that’s Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

Speaking of this being a Woody Allen film, since this was one made in the 80’s, it only made perfect sense that his gal-pal of that decade, Mia Farrow, would get a lead role in this movie as Cecilia. However, even though Woody did this plenty of times for his next couple movies, it still never felt unnecessary, as if she didn’t deserve all of the favoritism she was getting from his lovable, yet, soon-to-be wandering, eye. Because yes, even though they were going out at the time, Farrow still deserved to be in most of these roles because she’s a very talented actress, making it easy for us to believe that she can play all of these different roles, under the same direction of the same dude she goes to sleep with at night. All of that aside though, Farrow is great here in her role as Cecilia because she really is such a cute little darling, that you hate to see it when she’s sad and depressed about the life that she’s been living. Heck, the only time she ever gets anything remotely close to pleasure or happiness, is when she pays a dime to go see a movie, where she is ultimately thrown into a world unlike any other. This may have a negative effect on her mind, her innocence really makes you forget about all of that nonsense and just be there for her when she finally finds the love of her life, even despite him not being a real person; just a movie character.

Jeff Daniels also does a pretty effective job as this movie character, Tom, because while he’s so naive about his existence, it would be so easy for us to write him-off as “annoying” or “a joke done-to-death”. Like for instance, instead of handing the waiter actual money, he hands him the fake money he has in his pockets from the movie, and doesn’t know why the dude’s reaction is so negative. But Daniels somehow overcomes all of those problems and gives us a really likable guy that we would love to see walk off with Cecilia in his arms at the end, even if it does seem highly unlikely, or even illogical. He also is given another chance to show us another character of his in this same movie, except this time, he’s playing the actor of the character himself: Gil Shepherd. This is where Daniels really shines in showing us a guy that seems like a pretentious dick, but one that also may be a good guy underneath the whole facade of this Hollywood superstar. We never know what type of angle he’s playing though, and that’s when Woody himself comes in and gets all dark and sinister on our asses.

Once again, he’s a die-hard cynic. Don’t forget about that.

Consensus: The Purple Rose of Cairo works as a joyful, pleasant and sweet unabashed love letter to the art of movies, but also works as a symbol of love, showing us that the man still does believe in the feeling’s power, yet, also knows that, like movies, sometimes the reality is harder to chew on than the fictional ideas surrounding it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The calm before the storm, as they say.

The calm before the storm, as they say.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

That guy pulling you over on the freeway? Yeah, he’s totally high on coke.

Terence McDonough (Nicolas Cage) is not the type of cop you want to mess with. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a dangerous dude that will practically throw the book at you if you go past a stop sign and give him lip. Nope, I mean it in the way that he’s as crooked as a squiggly-line, is always perked-up on coke, oxy, heroin, whatever the hell he can find, and never seems to be in the right state of mind. Yeah, he’s that type of cop and the one that nobody wants to be around, nor be on the opposite end of the law with, hence why most of them just stay out of his way and let him do his thing, as insane as it may be. However, all of McDonough’s wild times of drugs, sex, alcohol, hookers, and all sorts of other debauchery finally begins to catch up with him once he has to get involved with the brutal murder of local family. Almost too involved, one could say.

Yes, I know. If any of you are long time readers out there reading this now, you will most likely come to know that I have indeed reviewed this back in the day when it first came out, four years ago. However, times have changed for me and this movie since those years ago, and I’ll tell you exactly what:

1.) For starters, I’ve become more in-tune with what makes a good film, actually considered “good” and all of the other essential parts here and there.

2.) I’ve seen more and more Nicolas Cage performances that I not only like, but came so far as to loving.

3.) I’ve seen more and more Werner Herzog movies, both documentaries and narrative-films that I not only like, but also came so far as to loving.

4.) And last, but sure as hell not least is the fact that I’ve actually seen the original, Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant, and needless to say, this movie swims laps, and then some, around that one.

"Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!"

Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!”

I know that the original and this remake don’t really share so much in common, except for the general plot-line and a tad bit of the name, but overall, the two flicks seem to have some sort of connection that goes further than just same characters and plot-outlines; it’s more that the flicks show their directors, and their main stars at the peak of their game, with one combination doing better than the other. The one combination that really worked to it’s ability was this movie, and no cheap shots at the original or Harvey Keitel’s penis, but this movie is a lot better and a lot more worth watching, especially if you’re in a happy, average mood. If you’re a deep, dark, depressing, and spiritually-thoughtful mood, then give the original a shot and see how many times you never look at Harvey Keitel the same again.

Where this movie works the best in, is not through its conventional plot, or through the twists and turns it sometimes throws at us, it’s more how the movie paces itself and makes this more than just a standard, police-procedural where we see a cop who’s obviously battling some inner-demons of his own creation, also come to terms with the harsh realities of the world outside of him. Some of those ideas are scattered throughout this movie, but most importantly, it’s a movie that shows one man’s descent from hell, to total purgatory. It’s also about every step he takes closer and closer towards crime and paying-off his debts, he gets further and further away from what makes a person considered “moral” or “good”. Plenty of those discussions come up, but they never seem to be used in a heavy-handed way like we’re used to seeing. Herzog’s better than that and so is Cage.

Together, these two compliment each other a whole lot better the second time on seeing them. With Herzog, everything new, cool, or fun that he brings to this story and the screen, he runs with and never lets anybody, or anything get in the way of it. It doesn’t matter what people are used to seeing with plots like these; if Herzog has an idea in his head that he wants to use, he’s going to use it and you better be happy with it. Sometimes, the decisions he takes are a little goofy, and take away from what the movie’s whole “message” is supposed to be, but they’re never anything too far-out to the point of where I lost any idea of just what I was watching. Despite all of the P-O-V shots from iguanas, alligators, and fishes, the movie still makes sense and builds up to a cohesive, understandable story that’s not hard to follow along with, nor is it any less compelling to watch. You don’t need some slick twist or turns to juice up a story like this, all you need is an interesting enough central character to really keep your eyes glued, and with the character of Terence McDonough, and Nicolas Cage playing him, you couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Most of you may already know this around, but I’m a Nicolas Cage fan through-and-through. No matter how many bombs the guy has made in the past; no matter how many random chicks he’s dated; and especially, no matter how many times he’s tried to be cool and just hasn’t let it work for him, the guy always gets a pass from me because of those one-in-a-million shots he gets, to where he is able to prove to us that he is indeed not just a talented actor, but one of the best working today. That’s what I love so much about the guy in everything he does, especially in this. He’s insane, nutso, bonkers-as-hell, high all of the time, and is always on the verge of a mental breakdown, whether it be the Nic Cage I’m talking about on-screen or off.

He and Herzog work well with one another because they do things together, that you’d never expect them to be able to pull-off, and do it so successfully.

Don't be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

Don’t be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

For instance, there are plenty of long, tracking-shots where it’s just Nic Cage’s face going through all sorts of emotions, and not a single one of them are here to be put in here. Even with lines like “Keep shooting! His soul’s still dancing!”, or “I’ll kill you all to the break of dawn”, where Cage’s sense of being off-kilter is almost ridiculous, you never lose respect for this character, nor for Cage and his ability as an actor either. Still, you laugh your ass off at him, but also with him as it’s made pretty clear to us that not only does Cage know what type of performance he’s giving, but so does the rest of the cast and crew involved. They are all just there to have a little bit of fun, and watch the master at work.

Once Herzog eventually gets back to filming actual movies with a narrative in force, I hope to see more of Cage get involved with them, because not only does Herzog know what to do with him, but he also allows him to run the show with total faith and trust thrown firmly in the dude’s grasps.

Even though it is totally Cage’s show from start to finish, the supporting cast actually helps him out as well. Eva Mendes is playing it surprisingly straight-laced as his coke-addled, hooker girlfriend that loves him, but also can’t stop whoring around to protect her life for the hell of it; Xzibit is surprisingly intense as the main drug-lord of New Orleans that Terence takes a liking to; Val Kilmer is fun and entertaining to watch, just because he always finds a way to bring out that pitch perfect comedic-timing of his; it’s always a joy to see Fairuza Balk back on the big-screen, especially with her supporting some pretty fine, sexy lingerie; and even Brad Dourif gets to have some fun as the exasperated bookie who just wants his freakin’ money, man!

Overall, everybody’s good, but it’s Nic Cage’s show, and you can’t ever fuck with that.

Consensus: Though it’s a very odd, very strange experience to go through, Herzog, Cage, and the rest of the cast and crew keep Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans surprisingly grounded in a sense of emotional-reality where drugs is more than just a reliance for people; it’s practically life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider."

“Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Dreamers (2004)

Three’s always a better party.

American university student Matthew (Michael Pitt) arrives in Paris during the year 1968, having no clue what to do with himself. However, he loves movies and he’s young at heart, so he ends up going the local theaters, as well as to whatever protests the young kids are holding around there. That’s where Matthew runs into the wild and blissful Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), twins that do everything together (and I do mean everything). Being that they’re all the same age and have the same interests in music, food and movies, they both take a liking to Matthew and invite him over for a dinner that goes sour. However, Matt stays the night over and the next day, finds out that both Theo and Isabelle’s parents are gone, leaving the house all to themselves where they can do whatever the hell it is they want. Predictably, this leads to a lot rough-housing and misbehaving, but things get a bit serious once Matthew loses a game of “Guess Which Movie” and is forced to have sex with Isabelle; something he obviously wants to do, but not in front of her brother, and definitely not nearly as soon either. But he does, and that’s when things get a bit tense between the three.

You have to hand it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the dude sure does love his sex. But also, he sure does love movies. And in a smart way, he’s able to combine them both here into one story that’s a love-triangle of sorts; one that’s an ode to movies as a whole; and another that has something to say about the changing of times during this French New Wave period. To be honest, though his intentions are noble, Bertolucci’s combination doesn’t always work and you sometimes have to wonder how much of this movie-talk actually pertains to the story itself, but there’s something neat that he does with this film.

"Yeah, I think that's exactly where the cold sore is."

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly where the cold sore is.”

See, a lot has been made about it’s NC-17 rating and to be honest, it’s quite deserved. The sex itself isn’t too graphic to where it’s practically a hardcore porno, but it’s all the nudity that gets the rating. For a good portion of this movie, these characters are naked and just absolutely flaunting whatever they’ve got, while they’re dancing, talking about movies, smoking a joint, drinking wine, listening to music, or just doing whatever the hell it is that they want to do. Why is that? Well, it’s because they’re young and it’s the dawn of the French sexual age in which practically everybody banged everybody, they all had a fun time doing so, and nobody cared either way.

And while for most movies, that aspect would seem forced, as if the creator behind it was just trying to shock you by featuring numerous shots of pubic hair and penises, not here. Bertolucci loves what it is that he has on display here, whether it be the characters, the movie’s they’re referencing and sometimes acting out, or just whatever political ideals they express to one another. Sometimes it can be a bit pretentious, but I was able to give it a slide because that’s just who these characters were: Young, full of ideas, always wanting to have a good time, and not waste a single second of their lives.

To me, it was fun to watch. Not because I got to see Eva Green naked on numerous occasions (although that was definitely something of a plus), but because these kids were fun to be around. Even though they felt like they were deeper than they really were, there was something rather endearing about the way they handled themselves regardless of what it was they were doing. Sure, they could be lying naked on the ground, or all huddled together in the tub or something, but it never seemed to bore me. Maybe it was because their constant-references of classic films gave the film-buff inside of me an extra, energized boost, or maybe it was because I was just enjoying hanging around these kids, as if they were my own friends I’d be around (presumably with clothes off, of course).

But either way, they were just characters I liked to watch and listen to. It didn’t matter if they were up their own asses on whatever they thought was “right” or “wrong” for the world, it was more that they had ideas about the world in general and were willing to express them with such passion and frivolity. They weren’t going to back down from any argument, even if they seem destined to lose it and because I too was once in their shoes (still am, sort of), I couldn’t help but smile. They’re not dumb, but they’re not smart either; they’re just young people, man.

And believe it or not, they’re the future. So don’t piss them off, pops!

Speaking of these kids, all three are great. Previously mentioned Green gets to do a whole lot with her female screen-presence, which is more than just being naked and it’s something of a sight to see, because she commands the screen with everything she’s got. Her character isn’t an easy one to pin down and when you start to see that there’s more to the mystery that surrounds her, you start to feel for this character as, at the end of the day, she’s just a woman looking for a love in her life. And although that love in her life may be her jealousy-ridden brother, Louis Garrel still brings out enough in this Theo character to make it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy; he’s just very passionate about what it is that he believes. Pretty much like most young people really.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I've had with the older bro's of the gals I've bedded. Only slightly.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I’ve had with the older bro’s of the gals I’ve bedded. Only slightly.

But the one who really does something with his character and almost walks away with this movie is Michael Pitt as Matthew. Pitt’s great here because he goes from awkward and shy, to being an absolute lovely, spirited presence that soaks up in the moment and actually has a thing or two on his mind that he’d like to get. In fact, by the end, he ends up being the voice of reason and had this movie gone deeper into that aspect, I feel like we could have really gotten a stronger character here. Even more importantly, maybe even a stronger movie.

Because like what I was blabbering on about earlier, not all of this film works; specifically, what point it is that Bertolucci is trying to get across through these characters, their ideas, their speeches and most importantly, what’s happening all around them. What he tries to do is that I think he tries to get a point across about why it’s important that these kids stick up for what they believe in and how they should go about doing so, whether it be through a peaceful or non-peaceful protest, and while it’s nice to see him shed some light on these ideas, they never seem to go anywhere. And even when they do, it’s almost too late in the movie to where it feels shoe-horned in there to give it a bigger sense of meaning.

You know, more meaning than just a bunch of kids being naked and having steamy, hot sex. Which is fine and all, because the scenes are lit perfectly and give you the sense that they are literally loving it in the moment, but when it tries to be something more than just that, it sort of stumbles. Maybe had Bertolucci just made this an even smaller, more intimate character-study of these three characters, we probably would have had a tighter, better with a more lasting impact. But sadly, we don’t.

We just have a whole lot of shots of Michael Pitt’s penis and Eva Green’s bum. So you can’t say that there isn’t something for everyone.

Consensus: While it would like to be deeper than it really is, the Dreamers still works in giving us three wonderful performances from the main cast, as well as presenting a story that touches on more than just a whole lot of sex.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Snowpiercer (2014)

Public transportation really is a pain.

In 2014, the government is afraid that global warming will rip our worlds to shreds, so they decide to test out an experiment which will supposedly counteract it. The problem is, that doesn’t happen. Instead, nearly all life on Earth is knocked out, with only a few hundred or so left riding on this super duper, seemingly never-ending train called “the Snowpiercer”. It doesn’t seem ideal at first, but when the world outside of you is a frozen wonderland, you take what you can get; but don’t tell that to those who have to stay, live and survive at the tail-end of the train. They’re considered “the low-life’s of society” that live poor, dress poor, and eat these black gelatin-bricks, they’re are told is “protein”; whereas the rich sit up front, eat their steaks and live in total luxury. It’s been like this for quite some time, but finally, the poor have had enough of being treated like total and utter crap! That’s when Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides that it’s his time to step up, take charge and map-out a way to get to the front of the train, find the creator, find that engine, and basically, take over the train as a whole. Sounds simple enough, but with the riot-team this train has, getting there is only half of the mission.

It’s taken quite some time for us Americans to get to see this movie, but finally, Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut is here! And yes, even though I just recently got into him, I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed. I like how Joon-ho is seemingly able to take all of these different genres of film, throw them into a blender, add a drop of sugar or two, and somehow, still be able to have it all come out fun, exciting, interesting, original, and best of all, cohesive.

"Call me 'Cap', one more time."

“Call me ‘Cap’, one more time.”

That’s why, as ambitious as this project sounds, I was a little weary. Not because the reviews for it haven’t been good (actually, quite the opposite), but because it seemed like the type of film that gets so hyped-up in the States, because it’s so different/original from anything our lazy, cheeseburger-lovin’ asses see. It doesn’t matter if the film is bad or anything, as long as it features something else other than giant robots facing off against one another, then hey, strap me in coach, I’m ready to play. Personally, I don’t mind that with some movies, but maybe with this here flick, I was more inclined to be against it, solely because everybody and their weird, stay-inside-all-day-nerdy-brothers are loving the hell out of it.

But fear not, ladies and germs! DTMMR has seen Snowpiercer and yet again, DTMMR has given into what the rest of the world has been saying: It’s pretty rad.

That said, the movie isn’t perfect and I think that’s the most important fact to note right away. Because see, while this movie is all sorts of ambitious, strange and, for lack of a better word, “different”, it can be a bit messy. Not just with the action that spills out all over the place at times, but because the balance Joon-ho has here between having people beat the bloody hell out of one another, with said people sitting down, chatting about life and what it all means, isn’t very well-done. You can tell whenever the brakes on this movie are hit, because it doesn’t just slow everything down to a slower-speed, it slows absolutely everything down to a freakin’ halt.

That’s not to say that whenever the movie wanted to sit down, chat for awhile and be more than just “poor vs. rich; fuck yeah!”, it was bad or annoying, it was just clearly obvious that Joon-ho felt like he had to include those moments in there, just so that people wouldn’t be upset that there wasn’t any “substance” behind all of the brutal murders and acts of violence. And although those said brutal murders and acts of violence are a bunch of juicy-fun to watch and see play out, there was still a desperate need for this movie to be about something “more”. Not just in the existential-crisis kind of way where we all take a break or two from the action, to sit around and cry for hours on end about how, one day, we’re all going to die; but in the way that we’re given a story that feels like there’s a reason to it existing.

And for the most part, Joon-ho totally delivers on that point. Not because it’s fun to see a bunch of poor people dressed like chimney-sweepers from a Dickens novel, battle it out with a bunch of riot police, but because you get lost in their cause and what it is that they want. Although, I will admit, it was more interesting seeing as how this movie never quite addresses what it is that these poor ones are wholly fighting for; sure, they want to get to the front of the train, get to that engine, talk to the owner of it and become the big men and women on campus, but in all honesty, what exactly is it that they’re going to do when they get up there? It’s never really brought to our attentions (not just by the film, but by the characters themselves), which is why it’s so thrilling to see them battle their way to the front, and even more thrilling to watch them as they figure out and come to the realization that they have to think of something, and something quick if they want this train to be theirs.

That the film doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with non-stop “we’re the 1%” metaphors, really felt like a refresher. But was even more refreshing was just seeing an sci-fi/action blockbuster be exactly all that it should be. It has heart; it has originality; it has blood; it has violence; it has fun; it has sci-fi; it has themes about people taking over control of a situation that they either can’t get out of, or don’t want in the first place that almost everyone can relate to (looking at you, Grandpa); and, to add a cherry on top, there’s a wonderful ensemble cast to go along the ride with as well.

Also, another interesting note to be made about this movie, is it’s cast. Not only are there some pretty big names, but they all comes from different shapes, sizes and regions of the world that it feels so strange having them together, on the same screen at times. Sure, I expected Jamie Bell and John Hurt to eventually cross paths in the film world, but you could have never told me that you’d expect to see Ewen Bremner and Octavia Spencer just hanging out, side-by-side, giving their enemies hell. Then again, maybe you could; maybe, I’m just a strange duckling. But either way, it’s a pretty unique cast that not only works to the movie’s advantage, but also helps make the idea of the whole world being thrown onto this ultra-train all the more believable.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

You can’t just have a dystopian-set futuristic world in which survivors from all throughout the globe have survived, and there be all American white guys just hanging around and shooting the shit about the good old days of bull-shitting about the Bush administration. This is the world, man! And last time I checked: It’s pretty damn big!

But although the cast is huge and pretty eclectic, the one who really leads this to the finish line is none other than an American white guy as is: Chris Evans.

Yes, for most of you hormone-fueled women (as well as gay man), Chris Evans has definitely been the pleasure of your eye-lids for quite some time, but he’s changing that all up now with this role. Not by throwing some dirt on himself and growing a beard, but by showing us that he’s an actor baby, and that he can sure as hell do exactly that, which is act! I’ve always had much faith in Evans as an actor, and here, he’s given free reign to not only command this group of his and be a leader, but also command this movie into being something more than just a sci-fi tale full of havoc, blood and destruction. He gives it some levity; most importantly so during one of the last scenes in the movie in which he talks about his history on that train, why he needs to do what he needs to do, and the type of effect it’s had on him for the past twenty or so years. Not only is it one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie (of which there isn’t many), but it’s definitely the pinnacle of Evan’s acting-ability and shows that he can play both tough, angry, and emotionally distraught, all at the same time.

A very impressive feat. Try topping that, Downey.

Consensus: Internally, Snowpiercer is a messy flick, but it’s hardly ever boring, intriguing, nor against a crazy, out-of-the-box idea it didn’t like, making it one of the better, more memorable blockbusters of the summer.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess they don't have showers in the future. Oh well. Works for me!

Guess they don’t have showers in the future. Yay! Now I’d have an excuse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Host (2006)

Think about it next time you decide to take a swim in a public river.

A semi-dysfunctional family reunites in the worst possible way, when one of their own, Hyun-seo (A-sung Ko), gets captured and presumably killed by a mysterious monster. The family is clearly in a bit of a crisis, constantly fighting, crying, drinking and blaming one another for this travesty, all before the government takes them in and starts doing test, after test, after test on each and everyone of them. Are they infected with anything all that serious? We don’t know. But, does it matter? Not really. The government thinks that they are infected, so therefore, they must be. However, late one night, the father of the little girl, Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), gets a call and wouldn’t you know it! It ends up being her! From there on out, Gang-du and the rest of his family holds out total hope that she’s alive and just waiting for them to rescue her. The only problem is that they have to find out where she’s at and get her, all while sneaking past the government as well. Which, as some of you may know, is not an easy task.

While this may sound all familiar to most of you beings out there who have been brought up on monster movies such as Godzilla, or King Kong, or even most recently, Pacific Rim, don’t stop there with that thought and automatically get turned-off. Because, while the Host may be, in fact, a “monster movie”, it’s not that kind of monster movie that just limits itself to shrieks, creeps, gore, scares and violence. Nope, there’s a little bit more to this one.

Yeah, don't look behind yourself if you can help it.

Yeah, don’t look behind yourself if you can help it.

See, what’s so neat about the Host is that it’s several different genres, all rolled up, and piled into one big mix of ideas, themes, and sequences that don’t always work perfectly together, but still keep you interested. And honestly, that’s all you’re going to need with any monster movie, let alone this one in particular.

Because sure, we get to see the monster wreck all sorts of havoc on large groups of people, chomp some up for a little breakfast, a little dinner, and a little midnight snack, and heck, we even get to see it chase people down, but it’s not our central focus. Sure, the monster is there and definitely an asset to why this story was made in the first place, but the real main focus here is this family that always remains fascinating. That’s definitely impressive too, because automatically, as soon as we’re introduced to each and every one of these family members, it automatically feels like we’re in for a whole slew of clichés that almost never excite.

The older brother who is a total slacker, constantly falling down everywhere he goes and dozing off whenever he feels like doing so; the younger brother who went to college and everything, but doesn’t have a job and is more interested in causing trouble, then getting his shit together; the sister, who is a professional archer, and definitely the smarter of the bunch; and the father of the three, who is clearly the sweetest, most endearing figure of all that has every bit of faith in his kids that they’ll do the best that they can do, yet, still holds his own reservations as well. If this was a stripped-down, intimate, almost play-like drama, I’d probably be gripped from beginning to end; but the fact that it’s spliced together with something that resembles an action movie, is almost even better.

Although there is the occasional slip-up in its pace, co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong definitely doesn’t lose his head on bogging us down with detail, after detail, after detail that we need to know about these family members and their history together; we get plenty of background info to understand their personalities, so that when they do split up and are on their own for this adventure of sorts, it never gets boring. Even if the dramatic scenes themselves do slow things down terribly, it’s still a nice refresher to get a movie in which the human-characters are treated on a first-grade basis, whereas the monster itself (aka, the real spectacle that most come rushing out the floodgates to see), is simply second.

It also helps that the cast is pretty fine too, with each and everyone doing their job to make the best impression. However, I think the one who runs away with this movie alone is Kang-ho Song, who is basically our main protagonist – or if you want to get really professional about it, our flawed hero for the two-hours. What’s so neat about Song and what he does is that while we’re introduced to his character in a not-so lovely way, overtime, we get to see that he’s a lot smarter and likable than he initially lets off. He’s a total and complete slacker that, at first, we see sleeping on his job while his dad does all the work, but once that all changes and shit gets real, real quick, then the strength of Song’s ability as an actor comes out and we get a character that we can root for, even if he does do some bone-headed things along the way.

Strange way to fish. It is Korea after all though!

Strange way to fish. It is South Korea after all though!

But that only makes him more human, hence why it’s so much easy to sympathize with him and just want the best for him, his family, and those that he loves when all is said and done. Case closed.

Anyway though, like I stated before though, that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of monster action, it’s just that there’s more to this movie than just that. I appreciated that aspect, and I was also glad to see Bong go out of his way and throw a little satire into the proceedings as well. What I mean is that the story itself is about how the government is more concerned with this virus, who has it, and its chances of breaking out (even if there is one), than actually going out there and destroying the thing that’s possibly causing this virus in the first place. You can get a clear idea that Bong wants to evoke feelings of rebellion and strictly just not fully trusting your government with everything that they do (especially once those slimy Americans get involved!), which makes the movie feel more heightened with emotion that doesn’t just start and end with the family-dynamic.

Basically, what I’m trying to get across is that you can have a fun, exciting and crowd-pleasing monster movie, but if you give us a little something more, then I have no problems whatsoever. More, especially in this case, is always better.

Consensus: While at two full hours, the Host can feel exceptionally long during its more laid-back moments, there’s still a creative, energetic force behind that has it constantly pushing for being more than just a typical, by-the-numbers monster movie, even if it does settle for that at the end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Swimming Pool (2003)

All would have been fine, had there been a lifeguard on duty.

British mystery writer Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) has hit a creative blockade where she doesn’t know what the hell to do with her next novel, and as a result, finds her life spinning out of control. That’s why when her publisher (Charles Dance) decides to let her use his French country house for solitude and inspiration, she jumps on the opportunity right away. And it’s great for her as soon as she gets there: She’s settled in, relaxed, drinking, eating, flirting with local waiters, and best of all, writing pages for her next big novel. Whatever that novel may be about, is a total mystery and that’s how she intends to keep it. So when her publisher’s daughter, the young and vibrant Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), crashes the house and decides to hang around, Sarah’s left befuddled; she’s upset that Julie is around and ruining her peace and quiet, but she still can’t kick her out because, technically, it’s her house. So basically, Sarah just decides to stick with it and be as peaceful as she can be sharing the same house with Julie, as hard as that may be. Somehow too, she also finds inspiration for writing through Sarah’s life, which has a strange way of sometimes spilling out from the page, into their real-lives.

Plenty has been made about Swimming Pool, which is all due to the twist ending. I knew this going in and needless to say, I don’t understand what all of the fuss is about. I get that it’s a vague, ambiguous ending that pulls the rug from underneath us, just as soon as we think we’re all fine, dandy and safe, but then again, so is the whole movie.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Co-writer and director Francois Ozon wants us to believe that everything we’re seeing is straight-forward, natural and actually happening in real life; however, what we don’t know is that he’s sometimes playing a trick on us. However, sometimes, he isn’t. That’s the beauty of Ozon’s direction and I like how it’s never a clear-cut solution to whatever our questions may be while watching this. Is everything we’re seeing real? Or, is it just a bunch of fantasy-sequences tied together through a story of an old lady wanting to get a new book for her publisher?

Honestly, we may never, ever know the truth. But there’s some fun in that, isn’t there?

Anyway, all that shish-gab-bob aside, the movie itself is a fine thriller, with and without all of the twists and turns. See, because Ozon’s direction is a tricky one to say the least, we’re constantly left wondering what’s happening, and whether or not it’s actually real. For awhile, that’s fun to play around with, all until it becomes a gimmick that Ozon himself latches onto a bit much. But, as soon as it seems like he’s just constantly beating a dead horse, Ozon does something neat in that he makes this more of a character-study of our main “protagonist”, Sarah Morton.

See, what’s cool about Sarah Morton is that we get to see an old, crabby woman who clearly doesn’t like talking to others, nor being disturbed. But by the same token, she wants to feel appreciated, loved and beheld. This is clearly evident early on when we are introduced to her character by a fan saying that she not only recognizes Morton, but even asks her a question about the novel itself. Morton, as shrewd as she can possibly be, denies being that writer the fan knows she is and just leaves the conversation. Moments later, she shows up to her publisher’s office, and seems like she totally needs a hug, as well as some comfort from the rest of the world.

So, there’s two ways of going about it with this character: Either she’s a total stuck-up, snobby, old witch? Or, she’s just an old lady that doesn’t have much going for her life, is pissed that she can’t write her next “masterpiece”, and is at a bit of a crossroads, per se?

What Ozon does is that he shows her off as both sides, and through this vacation-away at this French country house, we get to see certain layers of Morton in ways that I didn’t expect. Most of that has to do with the way this character is written, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Charlotte Rampling plays her. In case you don’t know by now, Rampling’s a great actress; she has that resting bitch-face going for her, yet, when she branches out and wants to have fun, you can’t help but smile and feel happy for her. That’s why when I knew Rampling was in this movie, playing Sarah Morton, I thought it was a perfect bit of casting.

However, as the story develops, and there’s more shading done to Morton, we realize that there’s more to Morton than just an old lady who can’t have fun, or have a peaceful conversation with anyone around her. She’s just an old lady who wants peace, quiet and relaxation, and when she does in fact get that, she’s as happy as she possibly can be. So through Morton, we not only get an interesting portrait of a trouble, somewhat unlikable character, but we get to see a female character, in the lead role that’s never really judged in any way. Which, considering some of the choices Morton makes throughout this movie, is saying a whole lot and is really accredited to Ozon’s direction and how he just lets the story play out, without trying too hard for much of anything.

"She's right behind me isn't she? Sheeeit."

“She’s right behind me isn’t she? Sheeeit.”

And that’s not to say that Rampling just completely owns this movie the only way she knows how to do, because Ludivine Sagnier is also very good as Julie. For some, it may help that she’s practically nude for the whole movie, but for other, less-perverted viewers, Sagnier does something well in the way that she’s able to give us the simple cliche of the young, brash, sexually-energized, and troubled-girl that we see so often, and allow her to branch out more as a girl who can take care of herself on more than a few occasions.

In a way too, as much as this may be a mystery-thriller, it’s also a bit of a psychological-thriller because of the mind games these two play on one another. Sure, Rampling and Sagnier work well together, despite their clear differences, but what makes them so interesting to watch, is that their characters have both appreciation, as well as resentment for one another. Morton is an old, somewhat miserable lady that seems like she never likes fun; whereas Julie can’t help but have fun all of the time, even if that means being constantly naked and banging any guy that takes one look at her body in a sexual-way. The two clash heads on more than a couple occasions, but it’s never over-played to where you see the strings – it’s all hinted at, and as a result, it’s something to think about and chew on for quite awhile.

Even if that ending may still piss some of you off.

Consensus: Though it’s disguised a thriller full of all sorts of twists and turns, Swimming Pool is also a fascinating thriller, pitting two completely different characters against one another in a way that some won’t expect to see happen, nor end the way it does, as ambiguous as it may be.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Could have been my story, had I been five-feet taller. Oh well. Dare to dream.

The film follows the story of two African-American high school students named William Gates and Arthur Agee, who both live in Chicago and dream of becoming professional basketball players. They go to the same school but as time goes on and more and more obstacles come down the road, their lives both change. Sometimes, for the better, and other times, for the worse.

As much as movie-geekery has taken over my latter years, back in the day, I was quite the sports fan and player. My main sport was always football, football, football and that’s what I focused on the most in high school, in terms of what extracurricular activities to perform in and whatnot, but it wasn’t the only sport I was fond of. Basketball was also another sport of mine that I loved to play and practice with not just because I was always the biggest white dude on the court and I got almost every rebound, but just the whole simplicity of it as well.

The times for me started to change and eventually, I just gave up on playing all sports but I never forgot the rush and feel of basketball and how easy it was to just simply pick up a ball, find a nice pair of shoes and walk on down to the courts and shoot. It’s a simple game that I don’t play as much as I ought to, but watching this flick reminded me what I loved about it so much after all.

However, as much as this documentary does concern the sport of basketball, it most certainly is not just limited to that. This flick talks about everything else that surrounds the sport of basketball such as work, money, schools, family, tests, cars, crime, making an honest-living, and most of all: Scholarships. The one movie that really shows you what it’s like to be an up-and-comer in the game of basketball and see the sport for all of it’s pros and cons is He Got Game. But to be honest, that’s a movie, made by Hollywood, and produced by Hollywood, and as gritty and dirty as it may be, it still is a movie none the less which means that it does fall a bit farther from the truth tree then you’d think. That’s where this documentary comes into handy and shows you that He Got Game, although a glamorized-version of what’s really going on in the world of basketball, is also very honest in what it shows. Yet, this review will not be a comparison between the two because they are both different in their own, near-perfect ways.

Whether or not you are a fan of sports, it doesn’t matter, because all you have to be is a fan of being human. Rarely ever do you get to see a documentary that shows the human-spirit for all that it is and all that it is ever going to be, because let’s face it, we all have dreams and we all want them to come true, but rarely do they ever. I don’t mean to sound like a total Debbie-downer but that’s the truth of the matter and it only shows in the adventures through the game of basketball and life that these two kids go through. Honestly, without these two kids, who knows what type of movie we would have had here and whether or not it would have been the thought-provoker it truly is.

Ahh, those were the days.

Ahh, those were the days.

I don’t think the creators, or director Steve James, could have picked any better subjects than these two kids because they are exactly what we expect from any type of human, especially young ones at that. They are young, brash, energetic, talented, but also hopeful and only wish to eventually be the ones making the change flow, the ladies coming in-and-out of the doorways, and the ones to hit the final buzzer-beater in the championship game. Their attitudes may not be the best because they are a bit too hot-headed, but they’re just like you or me in by the way that they all think that they got their lives covered, just because they can drain about ten three’s in-a-row. Little do these kids know, is that it’s not whether or not you can make a whole bunch of three’s and save the game at the final second, it’s more or less whether or not you can keep up with life itself and keep up with your grades.

In any sports movie you see, there’s always that typical cliche of how a kid who is really talented at a sport, cannot play the big game unless he gets his grades up and as much of obvious convention that may be to most people now, the fact of the matter still lies, it is true. You can go to any school you want if you’re amazing at sports, but once you do actually get there, it is your responsibility to keep yourself there and to keep alive and well, so you can get that diploma, get those scholarships, and get that life of big money, big women, big cars, and big b-ball games that you oh so truly desire. It’s the way of life, if you think about it; you have to work your ass-off to get where you want to in life and it only shines through even more once you see how painfully honest and realistic these kids are in their day-to-day troubles.

Both kids, Agee and Gates, are as lovable and likable as you can get with documentary subjects. They’re the type of kids that remind you of you when you were a youngling and you were a bit too big for your britches, but also remind you of when you got older, and more wiser and understood of the world around you. What this documentary does, and does very well, is that they show these two kids, who are from the same walks of life, live in just about the same neighborhoods, and have both of the same issues with balancing school and basketball, but yet, they are also very different. Agee is a wise-cracker of a kid that not only has a life at home that’s screwing him up big time, but also a mind that is more concerned with basketball, than it is with the books. Whereas with Gates, he is a lot more determined and smarter with his decisions and with what he wants to do, and has a pretty nice life at home, has a pretty nice mommy, and even has a girl-friend that he keeps happy from time-to-time. Both stories seem very cut-and-dry right from the start, but just like life, unpredictable situations get thrown into these kids’ ways and everything for the both of them changes.

You never quite know what’s going to happen next to these kids, to their love for basketball, or their actual families. It’s almost like every shot missed, every turnover made, every practice missed, every second late, and every pass stolen from them, means another step closer to ultimate failure in terms of their basketball scholarships, their dreams of being a basketball-star, and their hopes of saving their family from poverty. It’s actually very scary once you get thinking about it and watching these two kids as they struggle with all of the curve balls (that counts as a basketball term, right?) that get thrown their way, and how they actually make it better and work in their favor. All of this could happen and you could easily not give a single shit about these kids, or their families, but you do care for them and want them to succeed in all that they do. It’s almost as if I felt like I was their friend as well, because James gets so up-close-and-personal with these kids that we never lose sight of who they really are, despite them going through that many times throughout the whole three-hour flick.

"When I say, "academics, first, basketball, second", I really mean the other way around. You gonna edit that out though, right?"

“When I say, “academics, first, basketball, second”, I really mean the other way around. You gonna edit that out though, right?”

That’s right, this documentary is definitely one of the longer ones that isn’t just made strictly for TV, but it doesn’t matter because you are constantly on-the-edge-of-your-seat, always excited, always interested, and always wondering what’s going to happen next to these kids and the decisions they make. You rarely get that with any movie that features a script, actors, directors, writers, producers, and etc., but rarely do you ever get that with a documentary that’s as simple as this. Hey, there’s that word again, “simple”. The way I look at the sport of basketball is the same way I looked at this movie: It’s simple, but effective. If you have never played basketball or had any type of love for any sport at all, then you may remember all of the times you’ve felt deeply-passionate about something and furthermore, have done all that you could do to make that passion come true. See, it’s not just about basketball, no matter how much the title and synopsis may fool you, it’s more about the human-spirit and how it can make you do anything for the things you love in life, whether it’d be shooting the hoops or writing movie reviews.

Hey, had to insert myself in there somehow!

And as much as this flick may be more about the human-spirit, rather than the actual sport of basketball itself, the flick also likes to chalk-up some points about other issues in life like race, education, scholarships, families, crime, and the works, but yet, it just didn’t seem that fully fleshed-out. When I watch a documentary, I want to feel something, I want to learn something, and I want to have something that makes me think about the life around me and looking at it through the perspective of another human-being. Sometimes, I felt like those moments where here to hit and stay with you, but other times I just felt like James was happy with just touching the surface of the bigger picture, but yet, was too scared to go any further. That is always the worst-ingredient you can have as a documentary filmmaker and it’s what really carries this flick down.

For instance, one of the major issues in the sport of basketball that was growing around that time and is just about obvious nowadays, is the fact that there are more black basketball players than white. Without making this whole rant being about how black people are more psychically-skilled and inept than white people are, I just want to say that it’s obvious when you go to see basketball game, or any sport game for that matter. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that black people are better than white people are at sports. So, what I wanted to know was why there was such an increase in black basketball players, against white ones, and how that effects these kids when they’re in high school and trying to find the right scholarships for themselves, so they don’t go broke. It’s just one issue that I don’t think I really fleshed-out fully, but it’s one that I feel like could have really touched-upon when it comes to what James was trying to get across, because other than that, you just got a story about two kids, who are really good at playing basketball.

Consensus: Hoop Dreams definitely could have gone deeper, but that is all forgiven once you take into account how much it cares for its subjects, what they do, every decision they make, and whether or not they are ever going to be able to achieve their dreams of being a professional basketball player. And a great one, at that.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

I guess everybody except for the head coach to the right didn't get the memo. They're number one!

I guess everybody except for the head coach to the right didn’t get the memo.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Full Monty (1997)

FullMontyposterStill waiting for that actual “Full Monty”. Cheeky bastards. Pun intended.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is a struggling, recently-divorced father of one who’s trying to make ends meet. He’s unemployed, unable to get along with anybody outside of his comfort zone, very late on his child-support bills, and doesn’t hold much aspirations in terms of getting a job and making all of his problems go away. However, late one night when he and his son are walking around town, he finds a bunch of gals lined up outside of a club for Chippendale dancers, aka, male strippers. Seeing as there is good money in this type of odd profession, Gaz gets the rest of his unemployed, struggling-to-make-ends-meet lads involved with the nakey-dancing as well.

Back in the late-90’s, movies like this became the new “it”. Smaller, indies that had unique plots that could only happen in real life, to real people, not only reigned supreme at the box-office, but also with the Academy Awards as well. This flick is one of the most glaring examples of this as it not only had a movie where dudes got nakey and pursued the idea of becoming a male-stripper, but were also British and went through middle-to-low-class problems like all of us do. Parenting, making money, getting a job, satisfying your mate, staying in shape, looking good, staying healthy, and being yourself; these are all facts of life that this movie touches on, but with a more realistic sense that this is isn’t one of those big time, Hollywood-ized productions that could have only come from those corporate big-heads. Almost as if it was more down-to-Earth in its own way.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

And that’s exactly why this movie is such a joy to begin with. What it does well is that doesn’t gloss over any of its character’s problems them with any sunny-side-up approach. In fact, it actually makes them seem better and more pleasant to watch and feel-through, with a smile, a couple of jokes, and a nice sense of hope and inspiration, lingering throughout the air. British comedies like this love to be cheeky and witty, but they also love to hit you where it hurts the most: You’re gut. And the way it’s hitting you isn’t in a violent or depressing way, it’s a way that makes you so happy you could smile and laugh all day. That’s what all movies should do, regardless of what region they’re coming from, but British comedies were, and in ways, still are the leaders in pulling this off with flying colors.

The harsh realities of life aren’t ignored here, but rather than focusing on them the whole time and having us feel as if we are in a Debbie Downer of a mood, the movie gives us enough chuckles and laughs to keep us busy, not realizing that these are probably the same thoughts and ideas that go through many, middle-age men who have come at a crossroads in their lives. But like I said before, the movie doesn’t harp on those aspects too much and reminds you that this a movie about a bunch of physically random and incapable men, trying to look and be hired as male strippers.

It’s very, very goofy, but the approach the movie takes isn’t one that comes cheap and easy. You have to search for the humor and while you’re at it, even search for your heart as well and feel like you really know these characters for the type of real people they should be. Most of them do feel stock and most of them do seem like they are easy to pin-point, within five or so minutes of meeting them, but at least they are still an enjoyable bunch to be around, which makes you feel like you’re part of the gang too. Just without the stripping and self-loathing and all that junk. Although, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to watch the movie and be going through those situations in real-life, simultaneously. It will probably make you feel a lot closer to the material, more than you felt watching those sexy, son of a bitches Channing and Alex running their sweet and fine asses up and down those women’s bodies.

Seriously, I’ll never forget about that movie. And not for the reasons some of you may think. If you want to know more about why I still do think about it, just read my review and realize it for yourself.

Where this movie does have its fault, is in the ways that you can see things coming a million miles away and knowing that this is a movie that was nominated for Best Picture and a whole slew of other awards, it does come off as a bit “overrated” in my book. Granted, I had a good time, enjoyed most of myself, and will never find myself listening to “Hot Stuff” the same way ever again, but at the end of the day: I still rarely think about it and my life continues on like it has before. Same old crap, different day, different movie, same ending. That’s all there is to it. I know it’s a weak element to complain about with this movie, but considering how obvious and hokey things were, it’s really no surprise that a simple-man like me would find something bothersome about this. The movie had me entertained, but it does leave something to be desired. And I’m not just talking about that ending, even though that is definitely were some of my frustration lies in.

If this blog doesn't get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly. Okay, that's bull shit. I ain't going anywhere!

If this blog doesn’t get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly.

But with a cast as British and likable as this, you can never be too frustrated. Robert Carlyle was a perfect fit as Gaz, and an even better fit to lead this group of older-scoundrels as they all made up their minds as to what the hell to do with their lives, because not only does he serve the same type of problems that each and every one of them do, but he too has a bit of spunk in his step. The man has always had that fiery-nature about his act that always seems to work for the dude, so it’s no surprise why it wouldn’t work for him here, especially for a character that seems as clear-cut as this.

A rather smaller, unknown actor of this movie that soon became a big name after it hit the box-office like a ton of bricks was one of my favorites, Tom Wilkinson and rightfully so because the dude’s got all you want to see from him here – he’s funny, smart, insightful, dramatic, and always interesting, no matter how cheesy his lines may get. Wilkinson is always the star of whatever show he’s trying to steal (and I don’t mean in the literal sense of the word “show”), and it’s to nobody’s surprise that he’s the one who walks away with it all here. Other actors like Mark Addy, William Snape, and many more all have their times in the spot-light, but not as much as Wilkinson does and it’s to no one’s surprise that the dude made a fine career after this.

Consensus: Most likely, The Full Monty, as a whole, will probably not last in your brain longer than it’s supposed to, but that’s fine because it’s still funny, entertaining, insightful, and heartfelt when it needs to be, even if it all does come off a bit in the “lighter” category than you’d expect with a movie with so much potential of having some real, saddening material.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cause nothing spells "sexy" quite like a bunch of cops, unless you're drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it's not so "sexy" after all.

Cause nothing spells “sexy” quite like a bunch of cops. Unless you’re drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it’s not so “sexy” after all.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

22 Jump Street (2014)

The override of debt and loans may be a pain, but hey, at least you’re hanging out with C-Tates and J-Hill!

After “successfully” blending in as high school students and busting a major drug-ring, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are looking for their next mission, however, their commanding-officer (Ice Cube) thinks that they look too old to blend in with the young adolescents. Instead, he devises up a plan to send both of these guys to college, where they’ll be looking to infiltrate another drug-ring that may have also been the major influence in a student’s recent death. Automatically though, there are problems both Jenko and Schmidt run into as soon as they walk onto campus – some recognize that they are too old; Schmidt can’t fit in as well as he did in high school and finds himself “in” with the art crowd; Jenko finds himself buddy-buddy with a fellow footballer (Wyatt Russell); and plenty more distractions that keep both Jenko’s and Schmidt’s eyes off of what they were sent to college to do in the first place. To make matters even worse, Schmidt gets jealous that Jenko has a new best-friend that he can hang around and party with, leading to something even more serious than the idea of the mission falling apart: The dissolution of their friendship.

To be honest, even though I terribly enjoyed myself with 21 Jump Street, I for one was definitely not looking forward to a sequel of it. Not just a sequel to 21 Jump Street, but just a sequel in particular because, as we all know, sequels are the cash-cow of the movie business that Hollywood loves stuffing down our throats. It doesn’t matter if its a re-tread of the same story that was done so well before, or even if it improves upon the original in any way whatsoever – all that matters is that those in charge make money, and a whole bunch of it, too.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don't know if I believe it either.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don’t know if I believe it either.

However, every reason I just gave for not looking forward to most sequels of most kinds, is the exact reason why 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street, works as well as it does: It knows what it’s set out on this Earth to do and rather than trying to hide behind it with flashy special-effects, car-chases and explosions, they attack it head on. Maybe moreso than they should have, however, a funny meta-sequel is better than a meta-sequel that isn’t funny, and it makes me happy to know that Hollywood still has some creative minds out there that can do something cool, fun, and different with the same formula, no matter how many times it’s been done before.

And yes, even though this story has only been done once on the big screen in the past decade or so, something could have easily gone awry here where it feels like it’s the same jokes said, same plot-threads covered, and absolutely no character-development whatsoever. But, like I’ve been mentioning, this sequel is very different from those others out there that do exist and show up maybe ten-to-fifteen times a year.

Because, for starters, this movie is downright funny. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a wonderful time with the material, and considering that both co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller place this story in college, rather than in high school, there’s more ground to cover. Personally, I don’t think this movie goes as deep into the state of modern-day college as well as it did with high school in the first movie, but the fact still remains that it’s a funny movie that makes the best use of its premise. Most of that credit deserves to be given to the more-than-able cast, but a good handful does deserve to go to Lord, Miller and the screenwriters (Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel) who keep this movie crackling full of humor whenever it sees fit.

Still surprised? Don’t worry, because it gets better.

Also, with this sequel, something happens that I didn’t see coming, which is that we get more rich development for our main characters that we fell so in love with before: Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt. Obviously what was so great about the first movie is that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, despite seeming like a terribly-placed, odd-couple of some sorts back two years ago, worked so well together, that it was easy to not only believe in them as best-friends, but fuel the movie’s emotions a bit more once you saw their friendship start to deteriorate because of certain problems stemming from one being considered “cooler” than the other. They explore that same idea here, but it’s done so in a way that isn’t hacky and at least brings us to seeing why Jenko and Schmidt are such great movie-pals in the first place.

And heck, if you told me that C-Tates and J-Hill truly were the best of friends in real life, I would not doubt you for a second, because here, it totally shows. Their chemistry never wains and you can always tell that each one knows exactly what the next one is going to say, or do, at any given moment. Watching them pal around with one another and bounce joke-after-joke off of each other’s public-personas is an absolute blast, but what makes them so great together here, especially this time around, is that you can see why it matters so much about them being friends.

Though their different in terms of physical-build and social-cliques, they both have the same kind of personalities that they even each other’s out; Jenko is more impulsive, whereas Schmidt likes to think about what move he’s going to make next, whereas Schmidt is smart about life and in touch with his feelings, Jenko likes to blanket things underneath having a good time and not worrying about the small stuff that he considers “crap”, or “meaningless”. Though they have some differences, they still definitely appreciate each other’s company, because they’re both clearly good at their job and want to have a great time while doing it. Sure, they may not always agree on whatever step the other one takes, for whatever reasons that may be, but not every person agrees with another person on everything, especially not a best-friend.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

I know it may seem like I’m going into this deeper than I probably should, but I only do that because the movie itself clearly does its own fair share of digging into the friendship of these two just as much, if not more. Jenko and Schmidt are clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and while they may not be the only amusing, or even most interesting aspect about it all, they sure as hell are the aspect that keeps it conscience clear, its heart in the right place, and ourselves placed firmly behind these two, hoping they complete their mission, happy and together. And yes, if that sounds at all homosexual, that’s on purpose.

Trust me.

Like I said though, these two aren’t the only amusing aspect of the movie, because saying so would only be an injustice to just about everybody else who shows up here and throws in their own two cents to bring in more fun. Ice Cube is a whole lot funnier and well-rounded than he was in the first one, and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that he’s downright hilarious; Wyatt Russell (child of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) is a fine-fit as the bro-ish frat dude that Jenko begins hanging out with more often than he should, but the two create a wonderful chemistry that it comes almost close to challenging the same one Tatum has with Hill; Jillian Bell plays a character that has it out for Schmidt the first day she meets him for looking too old and is very funny, even if she herself does look a tad too old to be pushing books and staying in dorms; and Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle all return to bring in some much needed reminders of how great and truly awesome the first one was. And while this one definitely rivals that movie, it’s clearly the better of the two. However, to have comedy-sequel in the 21st Century still be just as good as the first, truly is saying something and makes me optimistic for whatever sequels they have lined-up for this.

Just watch and you’ll get the joke. Trust me.

Consensus: 22 Jump Street may not be better than the original, yet, still comes pretty closer to doing so because of its tongue-in-cheek humor that never stops being hilarious, and the heightened relationship between its two main characters, played perfectly once again by both Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like my Spring Break, except not at all.

Sort of like this past Spring Break for me, except not at all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Palo Alto (2014)

California has some creepy-ass parents. And even more messed-up kids.

In California, a group of high school students come to terms with what’s supposed to be “adulthood”, yet, can’t seem to shake the fact at all that they might actually have to go through with it. Fred (Nat Wolff) is a wild, crazed lunatic that is downright unstable and on the verge of having himself a full-on, mental breakdown; Teddy (Jack Kilmer) is a meek, quiet, and reserved kid that likes to do most things that any teen on the face of the planet enjoys to do, but finds himself in a bit of a rut when he gets arrested one night; Emily (Zoe Levin) is a girl who gets around and uses sex as a tool for attention, but finds herself actually wanting a relationship with the wild-card that is Fred; and then there’s April (Emma Roberts). April is a smart one, but she’s also confused, angry and bored, which leads her into the arms of her soccer coach/baby-sitter employer (James Franco), and further away from the one that actually wants to be with her (Teddy). These four teens all know each other and find their stories interconnecting in ways, while also share the same idea: Being a teenager blows.

To be honest, that synopsis there was a bit of a stretch for me because there isn’t really much of a premise here. Instead, writer/director Gia Coppola (if you know the last name, you know exactly which family she comes from) just sort of moves this film from one event to the next, without much conflict, arch, or narrative to be found in there. It’a almost as if Coppola got this whole cast together, plopped the camera on the ground, and told them to “go!”, without really taking much initiative.

Probably listening to the Antlers, or whoever the "hip" band is nowadays.

Probably listening to the Antlers, or whomever the “hip” band is nowadays.

This may all sound like a bad thing, but I can assure you, it’s not. Somehow, this absolutely works for Coppola’s movie because it shows that she’s not judging anybody here whatsoever; there’s no villains, heroes, or clear-cut person that’s easy to predict what their actions next will be. Everybody here is a human being, and because of that stance Coppola seems to take, the movie feels exactly like that: A snapshot of real life, happening in front of our own very eyes. Sometimes, you could even say it’s a bit too real, but there’s something different here about the reality of these teen’s lives that Coppola creates, then against something like say, I don’t know, a Larry Clark movie.

Here, Coppola distances herself away from the material and just allows everyone, and everything to tell itself out; whereas with most of  Clark’s movies, it’s clear and obvious that he has some sort of agenda – almost as if he’s just rubbing all of this meaningless debauchery in our faces to show us how realistic it all truly is. But Coppola isn’t that type of director, and while there may be some lurid acts here that may not sit well with possible-parents out there, it still works as a way of getting us deep inside this small, boring life that these young, privileged kids have surrounded around themselves. While plenty of kids do drugs, drink, have sex, break stuff, drink flower-pot water, get into car accidents, and listen to deafening hip, EDM-jams, it’s never supposed to be seen as fun. It may cause some people to laugh in a nostalgic, “hey, I remember when I did that back in the good old days before I got old and boring”-way, but for the most part, it’s supposed to show us, the audience, that these kids are living dull lives.

Yet, it’s all that they have and somehow, you end up feeling bad for them because of so.

For example, take the character of Fred; the kind of guy you knew in high school who didn’t take shit from anyone, anywhere, regardless of it was reasonable or not. He just loved to be an asshole and get his point across, so therefore, he wasn’t the most popular/loved guy in high school, but everybody still knew exactly who he was. Watching him go around, insult people to their faces and basically say, or do, whatever comes natural to him, definitely strikes a chord with most of us who have ever felt that rebellious spirit burning deep down inside of themselves at any time in the adolescence. And because of this, Fred’s a pretty cool guy, albeit, a very dysfunctional one that doesn’t always make the right choices, with the best intentions.

However, that doesn’t make him a terrible human being, per se. It makes him somewhat thinly-minded, but he’s not a terrible person, which is something that Coppola wants to get across about each and everyone of these characters; they make decisions, not all of which will be morally correct in the eyes of “the perfect human specimen”. Because of this, it’s characters like Fred that are seen as honest and raw kids that you could walk into on the street, or may have even met back in the day, before all of the selfies and Twitter took charge of the young, fragile minds.

Gosh, this generation truly is fucked. You know?

Anyway, speaking of Fred, Nat Wolff is a downright scene-stealer in this role and shows me exactly why this kid is a young talent to be looked after. As I’ve said before about Fred, he’s a bit of a punk that doesn’t always do, or say the right things, yet, has a conscience that wants to be with those who appreciate his company and also wants to have a good time. There’s a possibility that his character and Zoe Levin’s may start up something very serious and committed together, and it shows them two as more than just a bunch of reckless, shallow teens; they want love, but they’ve never felt, or had it before, so they don’t know how to approach it or go on about it. Zoe Levin is great too, by the way, and gives Emily a very sad-streak that reminded me of plenty of girls in high school that I “knew”.

I won’t say anything more than that, but yeah, you get my drift.

"Hey, 'James Franco: Soccer Coach', has a pretty nice sound to it."

“Hey, ‘James Franco: Soccer Coach’, has a pretty nice sound to it.”

The other “love” on the other side of this story is supposed to be between Teddy and April, but without saying too much, that angle gets shelved for April and her soccer-coach to engage in some heavy, full-on flirting and kissing. Which, oddly enough, seems to be the main-attraction for this movie, only because of James Franco, but is probably the least-interesting aspect of the whole movie and isn’t even featured all that much to begin with. Franco is good as the pervy older-guy who creeps on April and possible other young gals her age, but isn’t in it all that much to really show him as anything more than just an “old dude who wants to rob the cradle a bit”. You could pretty much just say “half of Hollywood”, but you get the picture.

As for Emma Roberts, she’s amazing as April because, even though her character does some foolish, child-like things, she always seems smarter and more thoughtful than she lets on. When it becomes apparent that she may in fact love her soccer-coach, it isn’t done so in a way that makes it seem like a total fantasy, it’s shown in an understandable, believable way that has us feel bad for April because there’s absolutely no good that come of this, while simultaneously also feeling happy for her that she’s found a possible love in her life and may actually be pursuing it for the first time. This may sound like a total compliment to Coppola, but it’s really to Roberts who allows April to say so much, without saying anything at all and adding layers to her thought-process and the way she handles certain situations.

But the best for last is Jack Kilmer as Teddy, who, if you don’t know by now, is the son of the almighty Val Kilmer (who cameos up in this movie and just about steals the whole thing with only a few words of dialogue). However, just by taking one look at the kid, you’d know that right away because not only does he look a lot like his daddy did when he was a lot younger (and thinner, just saying), but even shows some of the same strengths as an actor as well. Kilmer does a lot of looking, which may seem boring and uninteresting to some, but really emphasizes a certain amount of mystery this kid has going for him and why it matters how quiet he stays. He’s the kind of kid that didn’t really talk much in high school, yet, was always there and was always doing nice things. Like everybody else in this movie, he’s not perfect, but then again, who the hell is?

Better yet, who the hell is considered “perfect” in high school – the time where practically all of us hardly have any idea of what to think of ourselves as being?

Consensus: Well-acted by just about everybody in the cast and thoughtful, Palo Alto is a promising directorial-debut for Gia Coppola that shows her inherent beauty for some of the more quieter moments in adolescence, as well as the ones that have most of us thinking about what’s right, and what’s wrong.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No way in hell would this ever work! You really think that this person and that person wants to be related to one another?

No way in hell would this ever work! You really think that this person and that person want to be related to one another?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Animal Kingdom (2010)

I knew there was more to those Aussies than just Steve Irwin.

Following the death of his mother, J (James Frecheville) finds himself living with his hitherto estranged family, under the watchful eye of his doting grandmother, Smurf (Jacki Weaver), mother to the Cody boys. J quickly comes to believe that he is a player in this world. But, as he soon discovers, this world is far larger and more menacing than he could ever imagine.

It’s a conventional plot-line, but writer/director David Michôd does a great job at handling this rather familiar story-line that most Hollywood flicks cover, and gives it an exciting and almost unpredictable edge that keeps this film ticking and ticking, until the very end. However, the whole film is not like that and I have to give it some credit for that.

The first hour of the movie, slows things up, focuses on its characters, and places us in a setting that we know isn’t nice, and is filled with people that are totally influenced by that setting. We also get a big glimpse into the lives of these criminals and just who or what they are, and it provides us with enough material to actually care for them, once their lives all become in-danger. This is one of those kinds of films were it features a slow but breezy pace to set its story up, but it’s not boring at all really, because even though there may be a lot of talking and posing going on, we know that sooner or later, the shit’s going to hit the fan real quick. And trust me, once it does hit, oh damn, it really hits!

All in the 'stache, ladies.

All in the ‘stache, ladies.

What’s so impressive about Michôd’s is how he is able to change the tone up right in the middle and act as if none of that even happened. We all know that pretty much all of these characters in this movie, are bad people, hell, even the cops can be a little dirty here and there. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that since every character don’t quite have the best morals in their heads, you know that you can’t trust any one of them, and they feel the same way in this film. Somebody’s going to end up double-crossing somebody and when that does actually go down in this flick, it’s not predictable and it sure as hell isn’t bloated. It feels realistic and understanding considering the types of characters were dealing with here, and we see why they do the things that they have to do just to get by. Maybe they aren’t the best acts of morality, but it’s what they all think is right and what continues their existence on this planet.

The problem I had with this usual, gritty crime-drama right here, is that this film doesn’t really seem like it’s trying to say anything new that hasn’t already been said before. One of the main themes in this flick is about the dedication and bonding of family-members and how each and every single person in a family, no matter how dysfunctional or corrupt, should stick up for the other one because in the end, that’s all you got is family. This type of theme wouldn’t have bothered me if it was used back in like, say 1972, right before The Godfather came out. It seems like every one of these crime dramas says the same thing, just with a different execution and this one really had me wondering just if this genre has anything left to say at all. I was glad the way that Michôd used a different way of speaking to convey this theme, but maybe it’s time to hang-up the whole “dedication to family” element in these types of films.

Then again, if it works for the mob, I guess it can work for crime-dramas, so what do I know!

It’s impressive to know that this was James Frecheville’s first feature, and what a first feature it was as Joshua ‘J’ Cody. Right from the start of the movie, you know that this kid is a sweet little innocent guy that means no harm to anybody around him, but is stuck in a pretty crummy family and continues to get himself stuck in some terrible situations. The kid chooses to hang around this, but that doesn’t make him a bad boy and it’s obvious that this J-cat, is one of those characters that is so nice, that he almost seem like he wouldn’t even hurt a fly. However, this kid has a lot more to him than that and I have to give a Frecheville a lot of credit for bringing out some major emotions in him to have us still care for him, whenever it seemed like he really went on to the dark side. I don’t know who the dark side was in this film was, but either way, it just wasn’t going to be good for him.

"Pizza!"

“Pizza!”

Ben Mendelsohn shows up here as J’s crazy, and I do repeat, crazy uncle, Pope, and gives one of those performances where every time he is up on-screen, you can’t take your eyes off of him no matter what. This guy is a nut-ball type of a character that seems so unpredictable and so damn wild, that it would almost be a crime drama fantasy to have him in here, but the character plays out in a realistic way and almost comes off as if he was grounded by Mendelsohn’ performance. I don’t want to say that I got scared every time this guy came up on screen, but I can tell you for sure that I wasn’t looking forward to it, either. In a good way. Also, sporting one of the sickest ‘staches in all of film-history as Officer Leckie, Guy Pearce gives a very comforting performance where you know that every time this guy comes in front of the camera, that something interesting is about to be said or done, courtesy of Mr. Pearce.

The one Oscar nomination this film actually got was for Jackie Weaver as the the very touchy-feely, mommy-figure, Grandma Smurf. At first, Weaver’s character seems to take the back-burn to this story for all of these other characters to get more and more developed, while she just stayed in the back and made-out with all of her sons. However, when the tone and pace of the film starts to change, so does her character, and layer-by-layer, we start to find out who she really is. Weaver just looks downright evil with those pointy, Cartoon Network-like eye-brows and she ups the ante with the evilness whenever she talks, because it always seems like she’s going to lead to a threat from her. It’s hard to say, but she may be more scary than her kids in the movie. Which yes, is totally saying something!

Consensus: With just enough detail to focus in on its characters, tone, plot, and performances, Animal Kingdom offers us a tense and unpredictable crime story that may have the same things to say as any other movie of the same kind, but still will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next to all of these characters.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Woah, mom. Love you too."

“Woah, mom. Love you too.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Just as long as I’m not apart of it, Tom Cruise can re-live any point in his existence that he wants.

After a mix-up that leaves him confused and totally out-of-his-element, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) gets sent to the front-lines in a current war between humans and aliens known as “Mimics”. Cage clearly has no idea what to do with these new battle-suits the government has issued, yet, has no problem in taking out one alien on the battle-field. However, in doing so, he dies as well. But, moments later, finds himself woken-up, back to a moment in which he was getting brought into the war camp. He knows that he’s experienced this moment before and tries to plead his case to everyone around him, yet, no one wants to hear it and continues sending him out into the battlefield. And yet, time and time again, Cage wakes up, same place, same people, same situations, and same memory. Yet, during one of these adventures, a fellow, very respected soldier by the name of Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt), wonders about Cage and tells him to, “come and see me when you wake up”. Cage does and together, the two cobble-up a master-plan in which, together, they’ll have to find the source to where all of these Mimics are coming from, where, hopefully, they’ll be able to stay safe enough where they can die and do it all over again. However, if they can’t and somehow get a blood-transfusion of any sorts, then the day will stop repeating, therefore meaning, everyone will die and never come back to life. Case closed.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he's over six-foot tall.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he’s over six-foot tall.

Pretty sure that I could have summed all of that up by saying it’s “Groundhog Day meets Independence Day“, but there’s more to this movie than just that. See, it’s a gimmick-movie in which it’s a war movie that just so happens to repeat itself, time and time again; but then again, calling it a “gimmick movie”, would give one the impression that this a movie that relies solely on that gimmick, without barely anything else substantial made in the process.

However, that’s not the case with Edge of Tomorrow, because while it’s a premise I’m sure we’ve all seen done before, there’s something special about it being used here. For instance, that movie Source Code had the same Groundhog Day-gimmick going for itself, yet, where that movie seemed to try almost too hard to where it fell on its feet more times than it should have, Edge of Tomorrow really feels like a movie that has everything perfectly planned-out to where they’ll be no confusion from anybody, at anytime whatsoever. Sure, there’s a lot of sci-fi gibbery-goo that gets spouted out on more than a few occasions, but that just acts as simple exposition; it’s only real purpose is to give us a reason to believe what it is we’re seeing in this movie, as well as to move the plot along. That’s it.

If you care about not being able to believe anything that happens in this movie, then don’t watch it, because it is relatively goofy. Then again, the idea that a person could live one day, over and over again, without any real, life-long consequences, is goofy in and of itself. However, this movie knows that and really runs wild with the idea that somebody could experience the same battle, over and over again, while simultaneously, still finding a way to end it all. It sounds like it could be easily convoluted and messy, but director Doug Liman gets through most of it all by just having a great time with this material and realizing that audience-members want fun with premises like this.

Everything you’d expect this Cage guy to go through, emotionally and physically, while “graced” with this talent, he goes through and it’s always believable and interesting. Not to mention, it’s also pretty fun to see a deuche bag, played by Tom Cruise, get his ass handed to him on more than a few occasions. But Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise, he’s a good sport for whatever this material allows him to do and once again, I can hardly find a problem with this guy’s performance, which is mainly due to the fact that he’s playing a character who is well-written as is.

What’s so neat about William Cage is that, early on, we get the idea that he’s a total prick; he’s the kind of guy who will dedicate mostly all of his life to getting that desk-job, just so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting his hands dirty. We find this out early on and it makes us see him as nothing other than an a-hole who deserves to be taken off of his high-horse, by any means necessary. It’s great to see Cruise play somebody that’s a tad unlikable again, as well as somebody that’s allowed to grow over time. Because “grow”, is exactly what Cage does and it’s all pretty believable too. Cage does grow a conscience over time, and though the advertisements may have you think otherwise, it isn’t because he wants to get his bone jumped by Emily Blunt’s fine British rump; it’s more because he actually wants to save humanity and doesn’t want to let his powers go to waste.

She just had a child, mind you.

She just had a child, mind you.

Speaking of Emily Blunt, she does a very great job as this bad-ass soldier Rita Vratasky. Blunt got pretty ripped-up for this role and while we don’t necessarily get too many shots of her in all her lovely, sweaty-form, we do get to see her beat the hell out of these alien-like creatures, and it’s pleasing to watch. Also the more pleasing is that she isn’t a female character included to just be Cruise’s on-screen love-interest; she serves the plot and actually brings a lot of heart to material that can be pretty grim at times. She does that “sad-but-sort-of-angry-face” very well and that’s displayed on more than a few occasions here, yet, builds her character more and more into making her someone we can get behind, even while her decisions may not always be the best for herself or Cage.

I know that sounds all very corny and too “hurrah! hurrah”!, even by my standards, but this is what can happen to a moviegoer like me – a person who has seen more movies in his life than he can probably count. If you give me a premise that’s well thought-out and doesn’t noticeably trip over itself more than a handful of times, then yeah, count me in for the ride baby! That’s not to say there aren’t a few problems here and there with this movie, but honestly, I didn’t let too many of them get in the way of a movie that wanted to treat me to some fine, thrilling, and action-packed summer fun. And heck, if a movie can throw in a nice helping of “smart” in there, then hey, I’m all for that.

In fact, bring more of it. Please.

Consensus: While Edge of Tomorrow has a gimmick we’ve all seen done before, the circumstances are different, therefore, we’re treated to more excitement, fun, wit, and a movie that is at least smart enough to know when to joke around, and when to lay down its cards and be serious as well, without hardly ever losing its audience.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"So uh, after all of this war stuff, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a different religion? You know, or whatever you want to do."

“So uh, after all of this war stuff is over, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a new religion? You know, or whatever you want to do.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Man’s best friend can also be a lady’s best friend, too!

Wendy Carroll (Michelle Williams) is driving to Ketchikan, Alaska in hopes of a summer of lucrative work at the Northwestern Fish Cannery, and the start of a new life with her dog, Lucy. When her car breaks down in Oregon, however, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she confronts a series of increasingly dire economic decisions, which also leaves Lucy in a very vulnerable position.

Back in 2008, Marley & Me was considered the go-to dog movie, that had every doggie-lover out there pulling out a box of Kleenex by that tear-dropped soaked-ending. When I saw it, to be honest, it kind of got to me as well since I do love dogs but little did I know that there was a smaller, more effective doggie-loving movie out there around the same time. Then again, back in 2008 I wasn’t a movie critic so maybe that’s why I never caught much wind of it.

Damn me and my younger-self!

This is the third film from co-writer/director Kelly Reichardt who seems to have a certain style to her work that may be hard for some to get into, but works for those who have enough time and patience on their hands. What Reichardt does is she takes a plot, doesn’t do anything with it, and just let’s the camera keep rolling as you watching events play-out in front of you;  you know, as if it was almost like real life. She did the same exact thing with Meek’s Cutoff, and even though I didn’t appreciate that one as much as this, it still had it’s moments where I felt involved. This whole film, I felt involved mainly because of what Reichardt is able to do with this story, or lack thereof.

Lucy: A dog going through an existential crisis.

Lucy: A dog going through an existential crisis.

Some people will probably be pissed about this film and how it seems like nothing is even going on for the first 30 minutes or so, but Reichardt’s film isn’t all about what’s physically happening; it’s all about what’s going on when you look deeper into certain actions. Maybe I’m giving the film more credit than it desires but there is something here that makes this film compelling just about the whole way through. We see this whole story through the eyes of this gal and we see her for all of her faults and positives. She’s broke and is on the streets now and we have no idea why, but we don’t really need to know that to be invested in her story. All we do know is that she’s struggling big time and will do anything in her power to get where she needs to go, but also make sure that she finds her dog beforehand.

But once the final ten minutes of this thing happens, be ready, cause it will get you; much like it got me. Because the whole film is one big bleak-fest, that never seems to have any ray of sunny hope in it whatsoever, it feels like that’s how it’s all going to be, so it’s best to just leave the emotions alone and not even bother with them. Then out of nowhere comes this emotional wallop that the film apparently has been packing the whole time and once it does come through, it doesn’t at all feel calculated or phony, unlike Marley & Me. You probably won’t think that this film will get you, but trust me, it will and it does. Not saying that it made me cry, but it got me feeling just a bit more than I originally expected.

My only problem with this flick was that I feel like it takes so much of it’s time going absolutely nowhere sometimes that it doesn’t really matter what happens next. Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t remember any huge emotional or memorable scene that occurred in the middle act. They all came in the beginning and last act and it wasn’t that the rest of the film other than that was boring, it just seemed like Reichardt didn’t feel the need to move her story, so instead just let it move on itself without any real direction or idea. Not saying that this is a bad direction to take when you have a small indie like this, but sometimes you need to spice things up every once and awhile just to keep our eyes glued on the screen. Just my opinion though, man.

And let me also not forget to mention the most random scene in this whole film that seems to come completely out of nowhere: The infamous forest scene. Without giving too many weird details away, Wendy ends up sleeping in the woods one night only to be awoken by some freakishly creepy man that starts talking and cussin’ all of this gibberish that made no sense whatsoever. It goes on and on to where it seems like we should be scared for her and for this story, but it just seemed very obvious that a story would go for this trick of scaring us into believing that anything could go wrong with this gal. Once again, can’t give too much away but it’s a weird-ass scene that stuck in my head for all of the wrong reasons.

"Ruff ruff. Okay, Lucy?"

“Ruff ruff. Okay, Lucy?”

But the only damn reason we even care about Wendy’s homeless-self to begin with, is because she’s played by none other than Michelle Williams. Williams, as we all know, is a knockout when it comes to the acting department as she proves, time and time again, that she can always amaze us with the talent she brings to the big-screen and never lets us down with a role she daringly chooses. This is a very soft, slow, and quiet role for Williams, but she masters it perfectly with just the right look and attitude to every obstacle that comes in her way and it’s a very delicate portrait of a flawed character that, believe it or not, we actually care about and want to see be happy after all of the shit she’s been through so far. It’s the type of character that Williams excels, and the fact that she’s allowed to use her facial-expressions, just makes it all the better to watch.

Somehow though, Williams almost gets over-shadowed from somebody else: An unknown actor by the name of Wally Dalton. Dalton plays a store security guard that offers her help in any way that he can and tries to be there for her when everything in her life seems like it’s total crap. I’ve never seen this Dalton dude before but he’s very likable and nice, to the point of where I wanted to see her hang-out with him more because of the sweet things he does for her, whenever he coucl. This relationship between them doesn’t go where you expect and at the end of it all, they share a nice little connection that doesn’t end perfectly, but also couldn’t have ended any other way either.

Much like real life.

Consensus: Wendy and Lucy may tick some people off for its slow-pace, but it still packs a powerful punch of emotion mainly because of Michelle Williams’ layered, but subtle performance. Doggie-lovers, bring your Kleenex to this one too.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Definitely not the best kiss she's ever had, but pretty damn close.

Nothing like a slobbery, wet embrace. Much like my ex-wife’s.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

So many freaks, it felt like being in Saturday detention once again.

In the post-apocalyptic future, mutants across the globe are hunted down and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, who are able to modify their powers depending on what mutant it is they are fighting. This makes the idea of mutants’ extinction almost a reality, forcing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to come up with a master plan: Send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to find the young version of himself (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of these deadly Sentinels (Peter Dinklage). That’s a lot easier said then done, considering the last time Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr saw one another, they almost killed each other, leaving the former unable to walk. But, with Wolverine thrown into the mix, they hope that they can smooth some things together and finish their master-plan, all in time before the Sentinels come around in the present day, and kill all that’s left of the X-Men. And to make matters worse, retro-era Magneto is predictably giving everybody a bit of a hard time when his ideals don’t mesh so well with the rest of the group’s. Oh, these Mutants, when will they ever learn to get along.

So, in other words, what this movie is trying to do is allow Bryan Singer to come back to the franchise that was basically consider “his”, and go back in time to where he could not only make us forget about the stink of the third and Origins, but also, show that this franchise can go on, even without him or many others attached to it. And, for the most part, it’s a noble effort on Singer’s part because you can tell that he honestly does “get” these characters, their plight, as well as their stories. Singer, all of his modern-day controversies aside, knows what it’s like to be looked at in a weird way, to be a social outcast, and what it means to be pushed away from the rest of society, which is not only why these characters still work for us, but also why the movie moves as well as it does.

"Yeah. I did that. Get at me."

“Yeah. I did that. Get at me.”

Because see, what Singer does so amazingly well here is that he gives us all of the characters we’re supposed to care about and allows them to have their smallish scenes of character-development. They’re nothing gigantic to where this becomes something of a character-driven piece; a little sign of compassion, anger, rage, depression definitely helps this go a long way. However, it’s enough to where there’s some sort of emotion backing all of the wild and insane action that happens throughout the most part of this movie. Which definitely makes this movie all the more satisfying and fun to watch – exactly how a superhero summer blockbuster should be.

Sure, I may have liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than some, but there’s a reason for that: Not only did the movie keep me excited, but it seemed like it genuinely knew what kind of movie it was being. Nothing more, nothing less – a quintessential, 90’s superhero movie that just so happens to be made for Generation Y. It worked for me, but it didn’t work for others. So hey, whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that while that movie knew it was a shallow piece of entertainment and didn’t try to go anywhere it wasn’t supposed to, Days of Future Past knows that it’s more than just a piece of carefree, sugar-explosion entertainment that one pays nearly-$20 to see at the end of a shitty day to make themselves feel better.

There’s real, actual heart and emotion to this piece, that not only has us reeling for the characters whenever their lives are at danger, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher.

Jeez, who woulda thunk it, right? Having a blockbuster in which we were given characters we genuinely sympathized with and for? Naw, get outta here!

But that’s what’s so wild about this superhero movie: It not only kicks, moves, and runs around like an action movie, but it also breathes like a superhero movie, in which we get to understand and see our “heroes” for all that they are worth, regardless of if we like them or not. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a total drag-fest in which Singer continuously hits us over-the-head with sadness and darkness, like in the vein of Christopher Nolan, because there a few ounces of light, fun, and frothy comedy to keep our spirits up and afloat; but there’s also plenty of drama to make us feel like the ride is plenty worth while.

And the ride is exactly what matters here, especially in the eyes of someone like Singer, who feels like he’s gotten the whole band back together. Which is not only great for him and those struggling-actors who need a bit more extra cash thrown into their bank-account, but it’s also great for us. Personally, I remember growing up on the first two X-Men movies and fondly remember seeing each and every character introduced to me. Granted, I was young and didn’t know much better, but when I did decide to re-visit both of those movies, I found myself rarely at all disappointed. Some tonal issues here and there messed me up, but that was just the older, more-advanced movie-viewer inside of me speaking; the young, ten-year-old kid, however, was going nuts and in total joy of what he was seeing.

That’s why when certain faces show up in this movie like Halle Berry as Storm, or even Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, I genuinely felt happy; not because people are still actually hiring Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, but because I was finally seeing the mutants I used to watch as a kid, back on the big screen, in all of their wildest form. It made me feel like a kid again which, as we all know, usually comes with its huge dosages of nostalgia and late nights of sobbing into my pillow. So yeah, it’s great to have the band all back together again, but what’s even better is that they’re all in the hands of someone who knows what to do with them.

Not some freakin’, low-rent, spoiled-brat chump who I will leave unmentioned. But you know who it is I’m talking about.

Like I was saying though, yeah, this movie. What works so well about not only seeing the cast back on the screen, altogether once again, is that they definitely work wonders with delivering some corny dialogue. Maybe less so for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who really does deliver some of the movie’s best and funniest lines when it’s just him having to get used to the 70’s and all; but definitely moreso for class-acts like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who have always made their long-winding speeches of unity, acceptance, and banding together actually seem honest and interesting. There’s no difference here, it’s just that they aren’t on the screen so much, considering that most of this movie takes place in the 70’s.

She must be feeling blue...

She must be feeling blue…

This is where we get to see the younger-versions of Magneto and Xavier who are, once again, played wonderfully by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender feels like he’s constantly on the verge of dropping his good-guy persona and straight-up turning evil on everyone’s asses, while McAvoy gets to play Xavier as a bit of a drugged-out bum that needs some sort of inspiration to keep him going. It’s nice that First Class was able to get these two in the first place, because they work pretty damn well here in this movie, even if some of their dialogue is rather clunky. Just a bit though. Nothing too much.

And yes, before I go on too much, I will say one thing, and that’s everybody’s favorite figure in the media, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Mystique, however, I feel like she’s given a role that’s rather one-note. The whole aspect surrounding Mystique’s character in this movie is that she’s constantly angry about something, and while we know what that something is about, it doesn’t give us much reason to like her character or even see J-Law doing much for that character. There are certain shadings to her anger, but nothing to the point of where I felt like this was the Oscar-winner coming out of her performance and making this something more; just pretty standard stuff that could have gone a much longer way.

Hell, while I’m at it, I could even say the same thing about the movie. See, what got me so wrapped up in its emotion was the characters and the fact that I was seeing all of my old, favorite mutants, back on the screen, together, once again. That made me happy and a bit emotional, but for the story itself, there wasn’t that push I really wanted. It never really seems to be about much, except for just being about maintaining one’s extinction? I mean, I guess? I don’t know, let’s work with that, shall we?

Anywho, I know it’s a dumb nit-pick and all but it’s what kept me away from loving the hell out of this thing. But it’s definitely the superhero blockbuster you should see this summer. Although, probably, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only a couple of steps away.

No takers? Okay, cool. I’ll shut up about that now.

Consensus: With an utter sense of glee and joy with Bryan Singer at the helm, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a fun and exciting summer blockbuster, but is also a somewhat heartfelt, emotional ride that brings back all of the characters we once loved and adored, for another installment. Whether or not it’ll be the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everybody’s back and the smiles it brings to the fanboys’ faces.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Back the office, once again. Shit."

“Back the office, once again. Shit.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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